Tuesday, 22 May 2018 10:13

Hoofprints - May 21

Written by Peter Watts
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Back by popular demand is Pacing For Charity. It’s coming up on Sunday afternoon, May 27th at Century Downs in Balzac AB. Current World Drivers champion, James MacDonald, former world champion, Jody Jamieson, and top Canadian driver, Doug McNair will be the three celebrity contestants. Jamieson will drive for Autism Canada, McNair for Perky in Pink, and MacDonald will compete on behalf of Juvenile Diabetes. Last year, the trio helped raise more than $7,900.

McNair was the big winner last year with five straight driving wins over the Century Downs track. He scored with Silent Rescue (trainer Kyle Howard). Bluer Eyed Cowboy (Keith Clark), Brighten Your Life (Kelly Hoerdt), They Call Me Rosie (Robert Parish) and Shalesalittlespirit (Jim Marino). I mention the trainers because a bunch of them stepped up with horses to compete in the hands of the visitors throughout the card. That’ll be the story again on Sunday.

By the time you read this, the 28 year old McNair should be over the 3,000 career win mark. That’s a remarkable achievement, indicative of his skill and the fact he gets to drive some exceptionally good horses. The latest example came on Sunday evening at Flamboro Raceway when he scored with Backstreet Shadow and with Western Passage in divisions of the opening Ontario Sire Stakes for 3 year old colts. Western Passage is eligible for the $1 million North America Cup to be contested next month. His five wins on Pacing For Charity day at Century Downs last year were part of a season that produced 325 wins and more than $6.5 million in earnings.

Jamieson, who will drive for Autism Canada, won the world drivers challenge in 2001 and repeated in 2011. He’s closing in on 7,700 career wins and his horses have piled up more than $123 million in earnings. He has a personal connection to autism as does Century Downs regular, Kelly Hoerdt, who plans to supply at least some of Jamieson’s horsepower and who will match whatever Jamieson wins with a contribution of his own to the cause. As a matter of fact, most of the Century Downs drivers will contribute to the various charities in their own way.

The accolades haven’t stopped for current world drivers champion, James MacDonald. He won the title last August after accumulating the most points across a series of 22 races over five tracks. The streak began August 12th at Century Downs when he drove Lucky Lucka and Barossa Blue Genes into the winners circle. It ended with the final race at Charlottetown’s Red Shores Raceway. 

The win earned him an invitation to the Perth International Drivers Series at Gloucester Park in Perth Australia last Dec. 8th. He drove one winner on that card while finishing sixth overall. He’ll defend his world title next year in Sweden. Already this year he’s won 63 races through Sunday, pushing his career total over the 1,800 mark.

The drivers will fly in next Sunday to compete on the Century Downs card starting at 1:15 PM. A post-race autograph session will follow the matinee program.

Paddock Sale Friday…

Ten horses from the Springfield Ohio mixed sale were due at Century Downs on Monday evening. A consortium of agencies led by Alberta Standardbred bought 9 fillies and mares along with a 2 year old filly.

“All of them, except for the 2 year old are racing,” ASHA executive director, Fred Gillis, told me. “We’ll see where they fit in our ranks. But I’m pleased with the work done by Bill Andrew, Harold Haining and Dave Kelly. There’s some decent breeding reflected in what we got. And ultimately, it’s hoped these fillies and mares can be part of building up the Alberta breeding program after their racing careers are done.”

The investments ranged from $3,500 to $16,000 US per animal. Rainbowinthedark and Spitfire Delight were at the top of the pyramid. Both are daughters of the popular sire, Bettors Delight. Pet Rock, Yankee Cruiser, Art Major, American Ideal, and Big Bad John are other sires represented among the new racehorses.

“We’ve hearing a fair bit of interest in the backstretch about what we got,” Gillis told me. “And there may be a few other horses in the sale as at least one owner is looking at consolidating his stable a bit.” The auction gets underway Friday afternoon, May 25th, at 5:30 PM in the thoroughbred paddock at Century Downs.

Welcome Back Brandon Campbell…

There is nothing more difficult than looking a demon in the eye and understanding that the face of that demon is the one in the mirror. The next most difficult thing is being able to ask for help to deal with it. That’s what Brandon Campbell has done. In March, he came off the racetrack at Fraser Downs in Langley BC and checked into a rehabilitation centre to get some help.

“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he told me on Sunday morning. “But I knew if I didn’t do it, my life would continue to spiral out of control. I decided I had to do something about my problem.” What he did was go through a month of therapy and a range of presentations and conversations with therapists and among others who are trying to recover from their own shortcomings.

“I feel better about myself,” Campbell told me. “I know there’ll be good days and bad. But my family has been really supportive. I’ve come to realize that my life cannot revolve around the racetrack. I need to be here, do my work, and get home to my wife and daughter. I need to enjoy them and remember how close I came to losing them.”

“It’s helped that my owners have stuck with me. I gave them the option of taking their horses elsewhere when I was undergoing therapy. They all chose to hang in with me. I really appreciate that. I’ve got about 35 horses stabled at our training centre in De Winton. I can help take some of the pressure off my dad who’s carried a big load while I’ve been away. Now he can come in, jog a few horses, and leave without having to worry about all the work.”

Campbell had to deal with a suspension. He’s got a few debts. He’s had to meet with racetrack management and with the judges at Century Downs. He knows they’ll be keeping a close eye on his behavior. But, if his first weekend back driving is any indication, he’s not letting any of this bother him. He posted an impressive 5-4-3 log from 16 drives. He looked happy in the process, occasionally engaging with the crowds along the rail. It’ll be a day to day thing. Here’s hoping he can be strong and take another step forward every day.

By the numbers…..

Dave Kelly didn’t win a race over the three day holiday weekend, but he’s still atop the drivers standings at Century Downs. He has 18 wins at the moment. Phil Giesbrecht, who’s driving primarily for the Gerry Hudon stable, is closing in with 16 wins and Jamie Gray, who’s having a good spring so far, is right behind with 15 wins. Early leader, Nathan Sobey is fourth with 13 wins but he’s tied with Kelly Hoerdt, who started a bit later than the others but who is catching up fast. The top four drivers on the circuit following racing on Sunday, June 10th will represent Alberta in the regional drivers challenge to be held on Saturday, June 23rd at Century Downs.

Among trainers, Sanford Campbell picked up 3 wins over the weekend to keep the lead with 16 victories. Rod Hennessy is next with 12 and Kelly Hoerdt has eleven.

Briefly noted…

nobody, including Rod Hennessy himself, can remember the last time he drove a $90 winner. It happened in the 8th race on Sunday afternoon when Jk Ellem Enoh scored in 1:57 in a field of non-winners of four. The four year old mare is owned by Bryan Brook, Brad Walker, and Diane Harries……Monday racing produced a handle of just over $137,000 which is above average. It would seem to prove the point that the Monday product continues to be popular, especially among those who can watch and wager off-track. The Monday programs move to a 4:20 PM start time effective next Monday, May 28th.


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